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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

One-minute review

The Hisense 100L5 isn’t exactly your average TV. This much becomes obvious as soon as you clock the fact that it gives you a massive 100-inch screen for less money than many regular 75-inch TVs

The main reason it can offer so many inches for your buck is that it’s not strictly speaking a TV. Rather it’s an ultra-short throw projector combined with a rigid 100-inch projection screen that’s designed to reject ambient light, so that you don’t have to black your room out every time you want to watch it.

The projector is a DLP affair illuminated by laser lighting, meaning that it can go brighter and reach a wider range of colors than regular lamp projectors. It also won’t need its laser replacing in the course of its lifetime unlike lamp projectors, and also unlike regular projectors can be switched more or less immediately, without significant warmup or cooldown time. 

It goes beyond most regular projectors, too, by carrying both a tuner and a built-in smart TV system, complete with many of the key streaming apps. 

All of this fits perfectly with the 100L5’s bid to feel more like a TV than a projector. The amount of brightness and color it can retain on its specially designed screen even with the lights on or the curtains open really is striking. It manages to give 4K sources a pretty convincing 4K look, too, despite not being a true pixel for pixel 4K projector.

With a speaker system cleverly built into the projector’s rear edge also sounding good enough to outgun most TV audio systems, the only major catch with the 100L5 for its money is that it doesn’t have the contrast to adapt convincingly to dark home theatre conditions.

Price and availability

  • The Hisense Laser TV range is available in 88, 100 and 120-inch sizes
  • The 100L5 costs £2,999 / AUS$6,999 / €3,499 / $3,699
  • It's available - with slight variations - in most major global territories

 Hisense has really started to get its market localization act together in recent times, so it’s no longer surprising to find even a relatively esoteric and expensive AV product like the 100L5 now widely available across the globe.

Much more surprising is how affordable the 100L5 is in all the territories it appears in. You’d be looking at spending five to 10 times as much as the 100L5 costs to procure a regular 100-inch LCD TV. This sort of bang for your buck is certain to turn heads, and has doubtless played a big part in Hisense being able to get its latest ‘Laser TV’ proposition into mainstream retailers all over the world, despite the potential difficulties associated with exhibiting and installing such a unique product. 

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Design

  • Rigid 100-inch screen fits to your wall
  • Ultra short throw projector sits just inches from the screen
  • Incorporates a powerful speaker system into its rear edge

Since it ships in two parts - the projector and the screen - the 100L5 is a bit more of an imposition on your room than a straight 100-inch TV would be. That said, the screen is slimmer than most LCD TVs, while the projector really can sit almost within touching distance of your wall. So there certainly isn’t the usual projection issue whereby the projector has to sit in the middle of your room or near your seating position. 

The projector is fairly large, as usual for an ultra-short throw design. There needs to be some room, after all, for light to bounce around inside the unit before emerging through the slit on the projector’s top edge. It wears its size well, though, thanks to a silver and grey two-tone design and rear-mounted, felt-covered speaker section. Given that the projector sits right up against your wall, this rear section is actually the part of the projector that’s most visible from your seating position.

The 100L5 carries a sensor that can turn the laser off if it detects anyone starting to lean over the image aperture, so that nobody gets blinded.

Ultra short throw laser projector systems can be fiddly to install, as it’s more difficult than it is with regular projectors to get the image positioned and focused perfectly on the companion screen. However, while Hisense has tried to make installation easier thanks to an autoinstall app that fine tunes the picture based on a simple photograph of your image taken on your phone, impressively the brand is also running a free home installation service with every 100L5 it sells. You just have to register your purchase online and book an appointment for the installation to take place. This makes the 100L5’s price look even better value.

Connections on the 100L5’s projector include four HDMIs - the same number you’d expect to see on a TV, and two more than you normally find on a projector. None of the HDMIs are made to the 2.1 standard, though, so there’s no support for 4K at 120Hz, variable refresh rates or eARC. Regular ARC (audio return channel) is supported, though, and there are also a pair of USB inputs for multimedia file playback, an optical digital audio output, a headphone jack, and both Ethernet and Wi-Fi network options.

Many of these connections are again not things you would expect to find on a projector, but would very much expect on a TV. As is the most unexpected connection discovery of all: an RF port for a built in digital TV tuner.

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Smart TV (VIDAA)

  • Straightforward and responsive VIDAA system
  • Good service localization (including Freeview Play in the UK)
  • Currently no support for Disney+, Apple TV or Now TV

Although Hisense isn’t adverse to using Android TV or Roku TV smart platforms on its TVs, for the Laser TV it’s opted to use its own VIDAA system. This has some upsides and some downsides.

On the upside, VIDAA works impressively slickly. You can navigate around its simple, icon-driven menus with no sluggishness, and apps boot and update unobtrusively. 

Hisense has deals in place with many of the big streaming players - most notably Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Rakuten TV and, in the UK, Freeview Play. There is currently no support for Apple TV, Disney+ or Now TV, but Hisense tells us that it expects to be able to add the first two of these services to VIDAA before the end of 2021.

The VIDAA system isn’t as sophisticated in some ways as the best rival smart TV platforms. There’s no real effort to learn your viewing habits and automatically build a ‘bespoke’ content recommendation system, for instance, and nor is there any voice recognition support. But I suspect that for many users VIDAA’s simplicity will actually be very welcome.

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Picture quality

Hisense L5 Laser TV Specs

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Screen sizes: 88, 100 and 120 inches | Tuner: Freeview HD | 8K: No | HDR: Yes | Projector technology: DLP laser | Smart TV: VIDAA | Native resolution: 4K (pseudo) | 3D: No | Inputs: 4xHDMI (all v2.1), 3xUSB, RF input, optical digital audio, CI slot, headphone output, Ethernet, RF port 

Deliberately starting our tests by running the 100L5 in regular living room conditions rather than the sort of fully blacked out room usually needed for projector testing, first impressions of the Hisense 100L5’s pictures are seriously striking. 

The projector’s high, laser-inspired brightness combined with the gain of the screen and the short distance the projector’s light needs to travel before it reaches the screen results in a picture you really can still enjoy even when there’s a significant amount of ambient light in your room. Bright images still look punchy and vibrant, with surprisingly full-blooded colors and a level of eye-catching intensity that projectors just aren’t supposed to be able to manage in a light room. 

The brightness is matched by an impressively wide color gamut too, helping the 100L5 avoid the pallid, washed out colors you usually see when you try to watch projectors in bright rooms. 

As well as making the 100L5’s pictures exceptionally watchable in bright conditions, its combination of high brightness and wide color range helps it produce some of the most effective, convincing high dynamic range (HDR) pictures we’ve seen from a projector to date. As usual where a projector is involved, there’s no support for the Dolby Vision or HDR10+ active HDR systems, but Hisense’s processing handles the more basic HDR10 and HLG systems well enough.

So rich and bright are the lightest parts of the 100L5’s pictures that they manage to make dark areas look convincing too. This sense that the 100L5 can deliver good black levels is, it turns out, something of an illusion created by the system’s combination of high brightness, vibrant colors and the light-rejecting qualities of the screen. But as illusions go, it’s a good one.

The way the provided screen uses a lenticular surface structure to keep ambient light from interfering with the picture is one of those ‘you need to see it to believe it’ AV success stories. It's hard to believe Hisense’s claims that the screen can reject more than 90% of ambient light, but it certainly works well enough to align with the 100L5’s desire to be seen as more of a big-screen TV than a projector.

The 100L5’s pictures are crisp and sharp, too, despite the difficulties associated with achieving immaculate focus and geometry on an ultra short throw projector. Native HD sources are upscaled very tidily, gaining extra density and sharpness without exaggerating source noise. Even better, native 4K sources really do look like they’ve got four times as many pixels in them as HD images - despite the single-chip DLP optics the projector uses not actually delivering a native 4K pixel count. 

The so-called double flashing system the 100L5 uses to create a 4K effect is actually ratified by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) as being capable of delivering a true 4K experience. And while the results are quite a match in their immediacy and clarity for Sony and JVC’s latest native 4K projectors, they’re plenty good enough for a projector/screen system that’s giving you so much for so little cash.

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Good though the 100L5’s performance is in regular living room conditions, there are a few relatively small niggles. The intensity of the 100L5’s images drops off a bit, for instance, if you have to watch the screen from much of an angle. I occasionally felt aware of a small, faint ‘hotspot’ of brightness towards the bottom center of the image, too, and every now and then there’s a fleeting example of the rainbow effect, where bright, stand-out parts of the image can be accompanied by fleeting stripes of pure red, green and blue. The rainbowing is actually pretty subtle by DLP projector standards, though - especially for a projector that runs as bright as the 100L5 does. 

One other complaint with the 100L5’s regular living room performance is that as with previous Laser TVs, Hisense’s picture presets aren’t particularly helpful. The HDR Dynamic setting is the only out of the box option that delivers really punchy, bold colors; the rest can all look a bit insipid. Yet at the same time the Dynamic mode can come on a bit too strong for serious dark room movie nights, and can cause bright HDR areas to ‘clip’ (lose subtle shading information). 

The tools are there to tweak the Dynamic setting to rein in its most aggressive traits when you’re watching in a dark room, but it would have been nice if, say, the Standard preset had been created with a little more punch, to give you a better mid-point between the more accurate but also slightly drab HDR Night setting.

If you really want to get the best out of a Hisense 100L5, you’re probably best factoring a professional calibration into what will still add up to be a very reasonable overall price.

The final and worst issue with the Hisense 100L5’s pictures appears when you attempt to switch from a bright room to a dark one for a proper movie night. Suddenly, without ambient light to help hide the black level issues, very dark scenes and dark areas of otherwise bright images can start to look distinctly flat and grey, as well as rather hollow and short of shadow detail. And we didn’t find any way of really calibrating around this black level issue.

Audio performance

This is another area where the Hisense 100L5 does a convincing job of persuading you that it’s more TV than projector. For starters, the speakers are startlingly powerful. Its 2x15W of rated power proves enough in conjunction with the projector’s robust design to deliver a potent, dynamic and usually well rounded sound free of distortions caused by either the drivers or the projector’s bodywork.

What’s more, since the speakers are placed on the projector’s rear, facing out into your room, the sound feels nice and direct, immersively filling your room.

The sound’s directness means hard effects such as gun fire and explosions have plenty of impact, and best of all the sound spreads far and wide in all directions, creating a soundstage that matches the scale of the 100-inch images. The soundstage even has a sense of height as well as width, backing up the projector’s built-in Dolby Atmos decoding surprisingly well.

This verticality to the 100L5’s audio helps it largely avoid the common ultra short throw projector problem where voices seem to be coming from below the onscreen action.

The Hisense 100L5’s compact form doesn’t provide much space for a serious subwoofer, so it’s not entirely surprising to find that the weakest element of the 100L5’s sound is its bass. Dense movie mixes, explosions, heavyweight collisions and so on lack low-end heft, leaving them sounding slightly brittle and lop-sided. So much so that the occasional really shrill sound can hit your ears quite harshly. 

There is good news here, though, in that the 100L5 allows you to add an external subwoofer via Bluetooth. Even without one, though, overall the 100L5’s sound is better than that of many of this year’s LCD and OLED TV releases.

Should I buy the Hisense 100L5 Laser TV? 

Hisense 100L5 Laser TV

(Image credit: Hisense)

Buy it if… 

You want a huge screen for a budget price
Even if you can find a regular 100-inch TV, it will cost you an arm and a leg. If not both arms and both legs. Hisense’s clever UST projector solution gives you a 100-inch picture in a TV-like configuration, though, for less money than many 75-inch TVs.

You don’t like blacking out your room
The 100L5’s high reflection/ambient light rejecting screen can deliver pictures bright and colorful enough to still be enjoyable from the projector even in regular daytime living room conditions.

You don’t want the projector to dominate your room
Using an ultra short throw projector means you can get the image size best achieved from a projector without the inconvenience of a projector having to sit in the middle of your room.

Don’t buy it if… 

You're into serious movie nights
The 100L5’s black level shortcomings are hard to ignore if you decide to black your room out for a cinema-like experience.

You want the latest gaming features
While it convincingly pretends to be a TV, the 100L5 is actually a projector system. And like all projector systems currently, it doesn’t support the latest game feature of 4K at 120Hz, variable refresh rates and auto game mode switching.

Your TV needs to go into a corner
Unless you’re prepared to invest in some sort of huge mounting rig for the 100L5’s screen, it has to be mounted on a flat wall. You can’t put it in a corner.

  • Looking for the latest and greatest beamers? Check out our guide to the best projectors

Google Wifi

Google Wifi may not have been the first mesh router to hit the streets, but it’s certainly among the best. In fact, it somewhat set the standard for mesh routers, sporting a small, minimalist and modern design while being packed with impressive features and an affordable price tag.

What’s more, Google Wifi is easy to install – you just need a mobile app to set it up and connect, making mesh routers a lot more approachable for the less network savvy users. So, whether you’re transitioning from a traditional router to a mesh system or you need something to give your slow network the proper boost it needs, it’s just the perfect solution.

Netgear Orbi or Samsung Connect Home may have gotten there first, but Google Wifi offers better value and price. Regardless of whether that price or performance is your priority, this mesh router is a fantastic choice. Anyone thinking about investing in wireless mesh routers should at least consider this one.

We’re keeping an eye out for any Google Wifi Prime Day deals this Prime Day 2021. It’s currently discounted at the time of writing, but it could drop even lower in price in the days leading up to June 21 and 22, much like other mesh routers in the past. That’s especially because Google Nest Wifi has stepped in as the newer model. Be sure to regularly check in with us so we can keep you apprised.

Price and availability

With what it has to offer accessibility- and features-wise, Google isn’t asking for much, particularly for what the Google Wifi can do. It will set you back $259 (about £204, AU$399) for a set of three units, comprised of one main “Wi-Fi point” (the one you connect to the modem or gateway) and two secondary Wi-Fi points. Google promises that three Wi-Fi Points can cover up to 4,500 square feet (418 square meters) in a location.

A single Google Wifi unit can be bought for only $99 (£129, AU$199), if you are working with a small apartment space. If you’re in the UK, you’ll also have the option of the Google Wifi in both a 2-pack and a 3-pack, which will cost you £229 and £329, respectively.

Australians will be delighted to hear that the Google Wifi is now available – they can pick up a single node for AU$199 or the 3-pack for AU$499.

The Google Wifi is a phenomenal value – it provides more units for less cash than any of its rivals, like the Netgear Orbi, with other wireless mesh routers coming in at $400 (about £320, AU$520), at least, for the same number of mesh nodes.

google wifi

A Google Wi-Fi unit is a small and simple cylinder with a white LED band in its center.
Spec Sheet

Wireless Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi (expandable mesh; dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz, TX beamforming); Bluetooth Smart ready

Processor: Quad-core ARM CPU (each core up to 710MHz)

Memory: 512MB RAM

Storage: 4GB eMMC flash

Beamforming: Implicit and Explicit for 2.4 & 5GHz bands

Ports: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports per Wifi point (1 WAN and 1 LAN port each)

Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.7 inches (106.1 x 68.7mm; D x H) each

Weight: 12oz (340g) each

Design and setup

Google not only has an edge in pricing on its hands, but it also has the sleekest designed Wi-Fi units and possibly the easiest setup of any offering. Each Google Wifi unit, a simple, little cylinder with a white LED band in its center, delivers the same capability.

This means that any Google Wifi unit can act as the core ‘router’ of the system, while the others can extend the wired signal, sent to the unit wirelessly, with their included Ethernet ports as well as wireless internet. All three units are powered through USB-C.

Setup is also completely smooth, just like the Google Wifi’s hardware design – using a free iOS or Android app to facilitate the whole process. We’re not going to dig into the nitty gritty of the process, but the Google Wifi App will allow you to configure your network by first scanning the QR codes on the Wi-Fi point connected to your modem or gateway.

The app will then ask you to give your new network a name and set a password, then pair any supplementary Wi-Fi points you have, by scanning their QR codes – you’ll then be able to name individual nodes in the app. Again, it only takes a short time for the first Google Wifi node to recognize additional nodes and for them to start working.

You are not going to get the same depth of access as even Netgear Orbi offers, so band switching isn’t a choice. However, Google Wifi does handle this behind the scenes automatically.

google wifi

All Google WiFi units are powered through USB-C.

The Google Wifi app does provide more useful settings, like continuous monitoring of your network, as well as the points and devices connected to it. The app has an included internet speed test as well, like Ookla’s mesh test that measures the health of your Points’ connections, alongside a Wi-Fi test that measures your connection strength from within the network.

This is the most complete and sophisticated suite of controls we’ve ever seen on a Wi-Fi mesh system to date, in spite of its lack of dropdown boxes and toggles.

Additionally, you can prioritize bandwidth to one device for a time, control smart home devices and pause internet access to certain devices in a family setting – all from the confines of this app.

And, now Google has expanded Google Wifi’s Network Check feature to test multiple devices, so that you’re able to spot potential bottlenecks in your network, as well as rearrange your Google Wifi access points when you’re trying to optimize network performance.

google wifi

Google Wi-Fi can bring high performance in every room of our, albeit small, house.
Benchmarks

Here is how the Google Wifi fared in our brief suite of tests (conducted on a 100Mbps service):

Ookla Speed Test 5GHz (Download | Upload):

Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 101.41 | 117.83 Mbps

Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 97.05 | 118.67 Mbps

Ookla Speed Test 2.4GHz (Download | Upload):

Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 47.53 | 96.72 Mbps

Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 50.95 | 82.98 Mbps

1.5GB Steam download 5GHz (peak speed):

Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 12.6 MB/s

Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 12.2 MB/s

1.5GB Steam download 2.4GHz (peak speed):

Within 5 feet/1.52 meters; no obstructions: 7.2 MB/s

Within 13 feet/3.96 meters; three plaster walls: 8.8 MB/s

Performance

The Google Wifi is able to match, if not surpass, Netgear Orbi’s performance. Drawing the absolute most out of our 100Mbps Wi-Fi service, we have surely not seen any router be able to deliver the same service. But, the core difference here is that Google Wifi is able to bring this high performance to every room of our, albeit small, house.

We’re able to stream 4K video through Netflix to our Roku Premiere in the basement, as well as play Overwatch in the office where the modem is situated without any problems. Wi-Fi mesh systems like the Google Wifi aren’t focused as much on throughput as they are on coverage. Still, this product certainly delivers.

The traffic prioritization feature makes sure that your gaming session is receiving more of that critical bandwidth than the other devices in your house that are used most frequently for Facebooking and streaming HD videos. Additionally, the network can automatically repair itself should one or more of the Wi-Fi Points accidentally lose power.

Even though we know that Google Wifi operates its mesh system over existing Wi-Fi bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) over the 802.11s mesh protocol instead of Netgear Orbi’s tri-band system that communicates over a second 5GHz Wi-Fi band, we haven’t seen a considerable difference between either’s performance. We do see marginally faster download speeds in MB/s on the 2.4GHz band from the Orbi over the Google Wifi. However, that could also be a possible anomaly.

google wifi

The Google Wi-Fi is able to match, if not surpass, Netgear Orbi’s performance.

Where the Google Wifi really excels over similar routers is in its striking price to coverage ratio. You can get similar coverage from rivaling systems with fewer units, sure, but the flexibility you get from having more units – just in terms of minimizing dead spots – is massive.

Final verdict

The Google Wifi is the simplest and most effortless router we’ve ever set up, bar none. And, that’s considering the two extra devices required to finish the process. For a reasonably affordable price point, there are more units on offer than most of Google’s rivals, as well as the best setup and management app so far.

Despite the finer hardware controls it lacks, and the lack of AC3000 or AC2200 throughput, Google deliberated every toggle and test it could present in an easily understandable way through its app. There’s even bandwidth priority control. Pair that with a clean, uncluttered hardware design that’s better to showcase in plain view than any other routers we’ve seen yet, and what you have is one of the best Wi-Fi systems that money can buy in 2019.

Images Credit: TechRadar 

First reviewed April 2017

Brooks Aurora-BL

Two-minute review

The Brooks Aurora-BL is a limited edition neutral running shoe that's all about the looks. It's certainly striking, with a split sole design, masses of squashy nitrogen-injected foam, and a translucent upper that lets the whole world see and judge the condition of your socks.

It's comfortable to wear too, with a generously sized toebox, and a good, secure grip at the heel. Just be sure not to fasten the laces too tight, or you risk putting pressure on the middle of your foot where the sole splits.

What's most surprising about the Aurora-BL though isn't its space-age looks (complete with nitrogen injection ports), but just how ordinary it feels to run in. The thick cushioning provides a measure of bounce, but the lack of a rigid midsole means it feels more stable and less springy than many similarly squishy shoes.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

As a showcase for what's possible, it's definitely a success, and we're looking forward to seeing which elements Brooks chooses to bring to its mainstream lines in the future.

Price and availability

The Brooks Aurora-BL is a limited edition, with just 25,000 pairs being released. It was released in June 2021, priced at $200 / £180 (about AU$260) direct from Brooks, and from third-party retailers.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The Brooks Aurora-BL definitely won't be to everyone's taste. It was developed by the company's Blue Line Lab – essentially an experimental R&D department, which works on new materials and manufacturing techniques so they can arrive on your feet sooner.

Before the shoe launched, TechRadar spoke to Nikhail Jain, senior manager at Brooks Blue Line, who explained that its look was inspired by space suits, and would definitely be a 'love it or hate it' look.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

We're leaning towards the former, for its sheer bold craziness. Its most striking features is the split sole, made from two thick pieces of DNA Loft foam. This is a new material for Brooks, consisting of EVA foam and rubber, injected with nitrogen rather than air (as the 'ports' on the heel inform you). There's precious little outsole between this foam and the road, so we definitely wouldn't recommend this shoe for wet conditions, or for piling in serious miles.

Its mesh upper is almost transparent around the toe, meaning your socks are clearly visible. The gusseted tongue is very thin, but the flat laces means they shouldn't press on the top of your foot unless fastened much too tight. Tight lacing will also cause pressure on the underside of your foot, due to the split in the sole, so take care.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

In case you're not quite easy enough to spot, the heel features a large area of Proviz-style reflective material that's dazzling at night. This is a smart, practical feature that we wouldn't mind seeing employed on more Brooks shoes in the future.

Performance

Split soles aren't a totally new concept, though they're more commonly seen in dance shows, where freedom of movement is most important and you need to be able to pivot on the spot. Here, the intention is to allow your foot to move more freely. A couple of off-road shoes have employed a similar design before, allowing runners to pick their way through technical routes and sneak between tree roots, but it's pretty novel for a road shoe.

Despite its pretty outlandish looks, what struck us most about the Brooks Aurora-BL was just how ordinary it felt. You won't be able to feel the articulation in the sole while you're moving, and the width of it means the overall feeling is one of stability.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

This isn't a shoe for speed sessions or race day. The foam is decidedly soft and squashy, but without the rigidity of shoes like the super-squishy Asics Novablast Tokyo, there's none of that shoe's springiness. That has pros and cons: it doesn't feel as responsive, but similarly it doesn't feel unstable at slower speeds.

We have our doubts about the laces' durability in the long run, as there's no stitching around the eyelets and they rasp as they're drawn through the plastic mesh. It's not the most pleasant sound in the world. Similarly, we don't anticipate the very minimal outsole lasting too long before you're running directly on the foam.

Brooks Aurora-BL

(Image credit: Future)

Ultimately, the Brooks Aurora-BL is a shoe for being seen in. It looks cool, and that's really the point. It should also serve to help Brooks refine its manufacturing techniques. We hope to see this specific type of super-light nitrogen-infused foam in future shoes, but perhaps in a more conventional form.

Buy it if

You're in the mood for fun
The Brooks Aurora-BL is going to get you noticed, and will be a great talking point with other runners.

You want a peek into the future
While this extreme design isn't intended to go mainstream, it does show off some technologies that Brooks is hoping to use in forthcoming shoes, which have been developed in its Blue Line Lab.

Don't buy it if

You're looking for longevity
There's not much between the road and the midsole, and the mesh upper scrapes against the laces, so we wouldn't want to pour too many miles into the Aurora-BL.

You have a need for speed
The split sole means your foot doesn't roll like it does in a shoe with a stiff midsole, which results in a less springy ride despite the sheer amount of foam.

Asus TUF A15

In the Asus TUF A15, we’ve found one of the most compelling gaming laptops in recent memory. It’s not exciting for the typical reasons that usually accompany a new gaming device, however.

It doesn’t come packed with the top-of-the-line flagship components that power the best gaming PCs. And, it’s not outfitted with the kind of flashiness that you would find in Asus’ Zephyrus gaming laptops, which are also plenty powerful in their own right. In fact, the Asus TUF A15 is a pretty standard looking gaming laptop.

The Asus TUF A15 (also known as the Asus F506IV) sets itself apart by offering great performance, powered by the solid Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU and the AMD Ryzen 4000 mobile CPUs that have seriously impressed us, in a gaming laptop whose quality of performance is matched by a very reasonable price tag.

With Prime Day 2021 approaching, that reasonable price tag on the Asus TUF A15 might come down even thanks to the Prime Day deals. We’ll watch out for any potential deals on the TUF A15 and share them with, so check in regularly from now until June 22.

Spec sheet

Here is the Asus TUF A15 configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: 2.9GHz AMD Ryzen 7 4800H Processor (octa-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.2GHz boost)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB GDDR6
RAM: 16GB LPDDR4 (3200MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1080 x 2560) LED 144Hz
Storage: 1TB SSD (PCIe, NVMe, M.2)
Ports: 1 x audio jack, 2 x Type-A USB 3.2 (Gen 1), 1 x Type-C USB 3.2 (Gen 2), 1 x Type-A USB2.0, 1 x RJ45 LAN, 1 x HDMI 2.0b
Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5
Camera: 720p
Weight: 5.07 pounds (2.3 kg)
Size: 39.5 x 25.6 x 2.49cm (W x D x H)

Price and availability

The Asus TUF A15 is what we would call an affordable gaming laptop, which means it’s not as cheap as budget offerings, but nor is it as expensive as high-end gaming laptops aimed at enthusiasts.

Still, ‘affordable’ when it comes to gaming laptops still means a decent chunk of change, and the Asus TUF A15 starts out at $1,300 (£1,300, around $2,000). That’s certainly pricey, although it offers much better value for money compared to some gaming laptops, such as the Alienware m15.

So, you’re looking at a price in the same ballpark as the HP Omen 15 and Dell G3 15, both fine 15-inch gaming laptops, but ones which don't, at the time of writing, offer quite as recent components as the Asus TUF A15.

Asus TUF A15

(Image credit: Future)

Design

As with other gaming laptops in Asus’ TUF series, the Asus TUF A15 is a big, chunky device that’s a far cry from Asus’ Zephyrus range – but then, that’s part of the appeal. As the ‘TUF’ moniker alludes to, the Asus TUF A15 places build quality and durability at the forefront of its design. 

This isn’t a rugged laptop that you could drop from a height and not worry about it, but it’s a gaming laptop you’d happily chuck in a backpack and take to friends’ houses and LAN parties. Some ultra-thin and light gaming laptops feel so delicate that you’d be frightened of taking them out of the house – not so with the Asus TUF A15.

It’s certainly a design that doesn’t shy away from the fact that this is a gaming machine, but it’s not completely overboard either – and if you’d like to give it some more gamer cred, the Asus TUF A15 comes with a sheet of stickers to cover the laptop with. The chassis comes in two colors: Fortress Gray (the color of our review model, as pictured) and Bonfire Black.

On opening the laptop, there are even more design choices to appeal to gamers. There’s the almost obligatory RGB lighting for the keys, and the all-important WASD keys are further highlighted with a translucent coloring, leaving you in no doubt that this is a laptop for gaming on.

The industrial design is certainly appealing, and it’s functional too. It gives the laptop extra protection from knocks and bumps, and there's also a honeycomb design on the base of the machine, which keeps the device from sliding about, with the cells in the structure housing cooling vents.

The chunky design also allows Asus to pack in plenty of ports, with an Ethernet port, HDMI, two standard USB ports and a USB-C port on the left-hand side, along with a port to plug in the power supply, while on the right-hand side there’s another standard USB.

It’s a good selection, and should allow you to hook up your favorite peripherals without the need of an adapter. The LAN port is especially welcome on a gaming laptop, offering as it does faster and more reliable network speeds.

Meanwhile, the screen is a nice, large, 15.6-inch 1080p display with 144Hz refresh rate, further bolstering the TUF A15's gaming credentials. You can also get a version that tops out at a 60Hz refresh rate.

Asus TUF A15

(Image credit: Future)
BENCHMARKS:

Here’s how the Asus TUF A15 fared in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 33,361; Fire Strike: 14,961; Time Spy: 6,367
Cinebench R20: 4,265 points
GeekBench 5: 1,175 (single-core); 7,708 (multi-core)
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 5,388 points
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 5 hours and 14 minutes
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 11 hours and 44 minutes
Total War: Three Kingdoms (1080p, Ultra): 49.9fps; (1080p, Low): 140fps
Metro Exodus (1080p, Ultra): 45.44fps; (1080p, Low): 118fps

Performance

As we mentioned at the outset of this review, what made us particularly excited about the Asus TUF A15 is its choice of components, which includes some of the latest hardware from both AMD and Nvidia.

In the CPU department, the Asus TUF A15 features the new AMD Ryzen 7 4800H. It’s not quite the flagship mobile processor from AMD (that’ll be the Ryzen 9 4900HS), but the Asus TUF A15 isn't aiming to be a flagship laptop. What it is aiming to be is a machine that offers a mix of performance and value, and that’s why we like Asus’ choice of the 4800H.

We’ve talked elsewhere about how AMD’s Ryzen 4000 mobile processors could transform gaming laptops, and the Asus TUF A15 is a great example of this, with eight cores and 16 threads bringing a level of power we’d expect to see in much more expensive laptops.

This is paired with an Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU. Again, it's not a flagship GPU, but it's a brilliant 1080p performer, making it a great choice for this kind of gaming laptop. It’s one of Nvidia’s more affordable GPUs, but still offers very good performance, including modern ray tracing support, and with 6GB of GDDR6 memory this is a smart choice for a laptop in which costs need to be kept down.

As you can see from our benchmarks, the graphically-demanding Metro Exodus runs at 45fps (frames per second) at Ultra. With a bit of tweaking, you’ll get it to play over the magic 60fps mark, while still looking great.

With less intensive games, like Fortnite or CS:Go, you’re going to be able to really take advantage of the 144Hz screen for fast and responsive gameplay.

So, this isn’t a gaming laptop that’s stuffed full of the most powerful tech, but it offers excellent performance with modern games at a price point that's a lot more affordable than those of high-end gaming laptops. That’s a win in our book.

One thing that did bug us, however, was how loud the laptop got when playing games. When the fans on this thing kick in, they kick in loud. We’re used to loud gaming laptops – they’ve got to be kept cool somehow – but the fans in the Asus TUF A15 are particularly distracting.

Asus TUF A15

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

We’ve come to never expect too much from a gaming laptop when it comes to battery life, but the Asus TUF A15 doesn’t do too badly here, with the PCMark 10 battery life benchmark, which replicates moderate use, taking five and a quarter hours to drain the battery.

That’s not too bad for a gaming laptop, and it’s in part thanks to the energy efficiency of the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, which doesn’t deplete the battery as fast as the more power-hungry Intel CPUs we often find in these laptops.

The battery here is a huge 90Wh one, which is a lot larger than you’d usually find in a gaming laptop (and not far off the maximum size you’re legally allowed to bring onto a plane), and that also explains the excellent 11 hours, 44 minutes, uptime we recorded in our looped 1080p video benchmark.

While playing a looped video isn’t the most demanding of tasks, the fact that the TUF A15 lasted so long is very impressive. When it comes to gaming, however, the uptime drops to around two hours, depending on the kind of game you’re playing. That’s still not bad, and could get you through a shortish train journey; but, as with other gaming laptops, you’ll want to plug this in while you play.

Asus TUF A15

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You want an affordable gaming laptop
The Asus TUF A15 offers excellent value for money. While it’s not the cheapest gaming laptop in the world, it manages to offer build quality and performance that its mid-range and budget rivals lack.

You want a laptop for competitive play
The Asus TUF A15 is great for people who play a lot of competitive esports, thanks to a high-refresh-rate monitor for fast response times, and a built-in LAN port for fast and stable connectivity.

You want robust build quality
Asus’ TUF lineup of gaming laptops make a big deal of their military-grade durability, and for good reason. These laptops feel like they’d last a long time, and it means you can take one out and about with you without worrying about it getting damaged.

Don't buy it if...

You’re all about the 4K
The Asus TUF A15 is a fine performer at 1080p, but don’t expect eye-popping 4K visuals. First of all, the screen is ‘just’ Full HD, but even if you hook the laptop up to a 4K monitor or TV, the RTX 2060 GPU won’t cut it.

You want something thin and light
The extra ports and tough body means this is not a thin and light laptop in any shape or form. If you want something that's ultra-portable, look elsewhere.

You want a silent machine
The Asus TUF A15 is a noisy machine when the fans kick in, and while you can limit how much they're used, you'll also want to keep the laptop cool. It’s a tricky balance, but we found the noise to be quite distracting when gaming.

Acer Swift 3 (2020)

The Acer Swift 3 (2020) is a budget laptop that punches far above its weight. While most other laptops in that price range do the bare minimum, the Swift line shows that even a cheaper device can offer a solid computing experience. And, it’s not just a competent laptop but a capable Ultrabook as well.

Even keeping in mind that budget laptops tend to cut corners, the Acer Swift 3 (2020) is not a perfect machine. Some of the problems of previous generations can be found here, like the thin-sounding, downward-facing speakers. Yet, by updating the battery life and performance, Acer did manage to improve upon the previous generation without affecting the price. So, while it may not be the Dell XPS 13, it gets pretty close for much less money.

Essentially, the Acer Swift 3 (2020) offers excellent value in an Ultrabook package. If you have a limited budget to work with, this might be the ideal choice for you.

Now that Prime Day 2021 is inching closer, the Acer Swift 3 (2020) is bound to go on sale as more Prime Day deals pop up. We’re keeping tabs on any fantastic deals and will share them with you as they come.

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

Spec Sheet

Here is the Acer Swift 3 (2020) configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 (quad-core, 6MB Intel Smart Cache, up to 3.6GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
Memory: 8GB DDR4 (2,667MHz)
Display: 14" FHD 1080p IPS
Storage: 512 GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
Ports: 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), HDMI
Connectivity: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax | Bluetooth 5.0
Camera:
720p
Weight: 2.7 lbs (1.2kg)
Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches (32 x 21.59 x 1.5cm W x H x D)

The 14-inch Acer Swift 3 (2020) model we reviewed is the $699 model (around £565, AU$1070), which features a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, integrated Intel UHD graphics, and a 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD. 

The cheapest Swift 3 configuration, available for $499 (around £405, AU$765), features an AMD Ryzen 5 3500, 4GB of DDR4 RAM, and AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics. 

For the $799 version (around £645, AU$1220), the Acer Swift 3 comes packed with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G4 CPU, 8GB of DDR4 SDRAM, an M.2 PCIe 512GB SSD with Intel Iris Plus graphics.

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

Design

Acer continued its minimalist design aesthetic with this year's Acer Swift 3. Definitely taking a cue from the Apple MacBook Air, the thin, lightweight aluminum chassis should feel familiar to anyone acquainted with earlier Acer Swift 3 models. 

The matte-silver finish with polished Acer logo on the back is about as flashy as the laptop gets, and – for some – that's exactly what they're looking for. Needless to say, you will have to supply the personality yourself.

The Swift 3 measures in at 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches and weighs 2.7 pounds, making the device incredibly portable without feeling flimsy. In fact, once our cat got bored with the box and decided to investigate the power cable, she brought the open, running laptop down off a three and a half foot tall desk onto a hardwood floor and bolted, leaving no visible or noticeable damage to the exterior or the internals of the laptop. 

While not in any way recommended as a test to run on your own machine, its good to know that there's a chance that the Acer Swift 3 will survive in the real world.

Speaking of opening it up, the island-style keyboard features responsive, chicklet keys and a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint scanner. While some might find the keyboard to be a bit cramped, the keys are spaced well for a laptop of its size and the black keys are backlit with soft white LEDs for better visibility. 

The trackpad is a good size and responds well during everyday, general use. It also handled itself pretty well in a few PC gaming sessions of Stellaris and Civilization VI, but anything more than that will need a separate mouse or gamepad.

As for ports, Acer loaded up 2020's Swift 3 with a USB 2.0, a USB 3.0, and a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port to go along with an HDMI port and headphone/mic jack. There's no SD card reader or optical drive, but that's pretty typical of an Ultrabook nowadays.

The Swift 3 features a 14-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display that isn't the crispest on the market, but which is more than enough for most purposes. Several hours of HD streaming movies looked excellent bright enough in all but the most direct sunlight. 

The display's color profile doesn't stand out necessarily, but it feels like it at least meets the standard of a modern 1080p display. The bezels along the sides and top aren't the thinnest available right now, but they aren't the thickest either. The bottom bezel is the largest but it isn't awful. 

The total screen real estate feels appropriate for the overall size of the laptop so it never gets to feeling like things are more cramped than they should be for a 14-inch display. In fact, having two application windows open side-by-side on screen was absolutely doable with minimal horizontal-scroll on Chrome or Microsoft Word.

As for the webcam and built-in mic, both are functional, if modest. Neither are good enough for Twitch streaming, professional YouTube broadcasting, or anything along those lines but they are more than adequate for teleconferencing through Zoom or similar for work purposes.

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

Benchmarks

Here’s how the Acer Swift 3 (2020) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

3DMark: Sky Diver: 6054; Fire Strike: 1614; Time Spy: 530
Cinebench R20 Multi-core: 1140; Single Core:  395
GeekBench 5 Multi-core: 3164; Single Core 1113
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 3532 points
PCMark 10 Battery Life: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Battery Life (Techradar movie test): 7 hours and 06 minutes

After running the Acer Swift 3 through a suite of benchmark tests for its CPU, GPU, and battery, we're pleased to say that there's a measurable improvement over last years model.

When it comes to playing video and general use, there's little to complain about with the Acer Swift 3. Running the notoriously resource-hogging Google Chrome with two dozen tabs open was handled smoothly by the Swift 3, even when one of those tabs was playing through a Udemy course and another had an active Slack channel going. 

The system seemed to struggle a bit when trying to run several advertising-heavy tabs, but the same can be said of most systems and — really — that's more of a societal problem than one limited to a single Acer laptop.

The Acer Swift 3 2020 also handled some light gaming through Steam without any trouble and kept a solid frame rate going through the mid-point of a game of Stellaris, but when that end-game crisis hits and the Intel UHD graphics GPU is trying to track 200+ corvettes and destroyers weaving between a couple of dozen capital ships shooting lasers and fusion torpedos, the fans are going to kick in and you will get a noticeable drop in responsiveness. 

Meanwhile, the Swift 3 handled multimedia content creation pretty well for a system with 8GB of RAM. Loading up Photoshop and doing basic photo editing with a dozen or so open files was pretty smooth without any hang-ups. 

Acer Swift 3 Speakers

(Image credit: Future)

Battery life

The biggest improvement we saw over last year's Acer Swift 3 came in the battery department. Our battery life test, where we loop a 1080p video, ran for 7 hours and 6 minutes, about the same as older models of the Swift 3, but on the PC Mark 10 battery test, the Swift 3 ran for 6 hours and 12 minutes on performance mode with a balanced power profile and made it a full eight hours on a modest battery saver mode and balanced power profile.

As far as thermal performance, the Swift 3 runs comfortably and never gets noticeably warm, even under duress, and the laptop's fans are effective and whisper-quiet while actively cooling everything. 

The hottest part of the laptop is on the bottom rear of the machine by the battery, so the most likely time you'll notice any heat build-up will be if you're gaming or video-editing a project while sitting up in bed with the laptop on your legs. Even then, it won't get uncomfortably "hot" the way others might.

Where the Swift 3 comes up short is its speakers, unfortunately. The audio from the laptop is tinny with almost no low-end, so it all comes off sounding somewhat flat. It's fine for listening to Spotify or YouTube while working on a project or typing up a report, but on max volume it's barely audible a room or two away.

And that's assuming the Swift 3 is sitting on a flat table with no obstruction or table cloth to muffle it. With the downward-facing speakers, sitting the Swift 3 on a bed  significantly muffles the sound. This has been a recurring problem with a lot of laptops over the years and the Acer Swift 3 is no different, but its something that should have been addressed by now.

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

You don't want to take out a loan for an Ultrabook
Ultrabooks have always been a bit more of a premium laptop, but the Acer Swift 3 aims at bringing a quality Ultrabook to the wider, more budget-conscious consumer. It's definitely succeeded in this respect.

You are looking for a highly-portable laptop
The compact dimensions and light weight of the Acer Swift 3 make it one of the most portable laptops out there right now, making it perfect for students running back and forth around campus or for freelance professionals on the go.

You're looking for a minimalist design in your laptop
While not quite as refined as the MacBook Air, its not out of the question that the Acer Swift 3 could be mistaken for one if you don't look too closely.

Don't buy it if...

You want something that will game as hard as it works
We always want it all when it comes to our tech, but its important to know what the Acer Swift 3 isn't. If you're looking for a laptop for e-sports – this ain't it, chief.

You're an audiophile
There's just no getting around the serviceable speakers. You will hear what you need to hear while actively working on the Swift 3, but if you're going to spend the day cleaning around the house, this should be your last choice for a stereo unless the alternative is an alarm clock-radio. 

Apple iMac 27-inch (2019)

The Apple iMac 27-inch 2019 is a powerful entry in  the popular all-in-one computer line, even after all these years, complete with high-end configurations for those who need to upgrade their existing machine. With a 9th-generation Intel Coffee Lake Refresh processor, up to an AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 graphics, and a super-fast 512GB SSD, the Apple iMac 27-inch 2019 is a highly-capable machine even by 2021 standards. 

Mac news

Apple is getting sued for not including dust filters in iMac and MacBooks

Apple blames Intel’s processor shortage for slump in Mac sales 

Sadly, when it comes to the design, not much has changed here. The Apple iMac 27-inch 2019 still comes in the same tapered chassis as the 2017 model – the same design Apple has been using since late 2012. In fact, short of turning these two models on and taking each for a spin, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. So, if you’ve been holding out on a design overhaul or upgrade, you might be disappointed.

However, if what you need is an upgrade on specs, especially to replace an aging machine at home, the Apple iMac 27-inch 2019 is worth checking out.

The Apple iMac 27-inch might see a decent price drop for Prime Day 2021, especially with the new iMac 24-inch hogging all the attention right now. Hopefully, we’ll find some money-saving Prime Day deals to share with you between now and June 22. Check in regularly with us before you hit that buy button.

Spec sheet

Here is the 27-inch Apple iMac configuration sent to TechRadar for review

CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K (eight-core, 16MB cache, up to 5.0GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro Vega 48 (8GB VRAM)
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,666MHz)
Screen: 27-inch 5K (5,120 x 2,880) Retina display (P3 wide color)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Ports: 4x USB 3 (Type-A), 2x Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), SDXC card slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, Gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock slot
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
Operating system: macOS 10.14.4 Mojave
Camera: FaceTime HD
Weight: 20.8 pounds (9.42kg)
Size: 25.6 x 8 x 20.3 inches (65 x 20.3 x 51.6cm; W x D x H)

Price and availability

Let’s ignore our revved-up review model’s specs for a moment, which send the price north of three grand, and first talk about what you get in the three more affordable, off-the-shelf 27-inch iMac 2019 starting points.

Each of the entry-level ($1,799/£1,749/AU$2,799) and the mid-range ($1,999/£1,949/AU$3,099) models comes with an eighth-generation, six-core Intel Core i5 processor. The rival Dell Inspiron 27 7000 range also uses eighth-gen CPUs, although the nearest price ($1,688.99/£1618.99/AU$2,999) to Apple’s most affordable 27-inch iMac is also equipped with a six-core processor, it has a lower clock speed of 2.4GHz, whereas the iMac’s is 3.0GHz.

At the top of the 27-inch iMac 2019 line-up is a model that includes a ninth-gen, six-core i5 as standard. That’ll set you back $2,299/£2,249/AU$3,549, which is actually the most affordable way to get a ninth-gen CPU in an iMac.

It’s not the only way, but the other – adding the more powerful eight-core i9 that was in our review unit – adds $500/£450/AU$770 to the mid-range spec or $400/£360/AU$640 to the highest standard config. Before you balk at that, read about its impact in our HandBrake test, as it might be the way to go if you expect your all-in-one to do heavy lifting often.

If you have money and need a lot more power, consider the iMac Pro, which comes it at $4,999 (£4,899, AU$7,299) for 27-inch 5K Retina display, an 8-core Intel Xeon W processor, AMD Radeon Vega 56 (8GB) graphics, 32GB of error-correcting code (ECC) memory and a 1TB SSD.

Design

Again, Apple has been using this look for the iMac for more than six years now. Make of that what you will, but that also means there’s not much to complain about.

Although, if we were to complain about something, it would probably be the one that’s obnoxiously in our faces: the display’s thick black bezel and the aluminum chin below look increasingly dated.

Considering that Apple has trimmed some of that fat from all of its MacBooks, on which doing so must have been more of a challenge, it’s definitely disappointing that Apple doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to do the same for its all-in-one desktop.

Changing the overall good look isn’t urgent, however. This particular iteration has aged gracefully, and continues to be elegant where the thicker models from 2011 and earlier didn’t. That is, when you see it from any angle other than head-on. The back’s gentle curve helps even a computer this big to look low-key in its surroundings.

We’re pleased with the iMac 2019’s heat management as well, even when putting the high-end components in our review unit through a tough test. Our HEVC video conversion in HandBrake comes close to maxing out all 16 virtual processing cores.

Despite that, the iMac 2019’s fan was quiet enough not to be distracting, even while producing a good amount of heat out of the rear vent.

Mousing around

You get a wireless mouse and keyboard with the iMac 2019. We wish Apple would allow customers to opt out of getting them to save money; you may simply not get on with the mouse’s shape and lack of key travel.

Though Apple sells the Mac mini that way, that initiative dates back to the aughts, when it wanted Windows defectors to keep using their existing mouse and keyboard. It was an implicit acknowledgement that you were probably happy enough with those accessories.

Apple iMac (2019)

Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 continues to raise eyebrows over its Lightning charging port being on the bottom, which prevents simultaneous charging and use.

Some people don’t get on with that mouse, either due to its low profile or because they accidentally trigger features, thanks to the touch-sensitive surface. The ability to turn off gestures helps with the latter issue, and you can tell the right side to act as a right click, rather than having to hold the Ctrl key.

One option is to swap the mouse for a Magic Trackpad 2 ($50/£50/AU$60 at checkout). You might find it easier not to trigger gestures when the device used to move the pointer doesn’t slip around under your fingers.

The laptop-size Magic Keyboard can also be exchanged for a version with a numeric keypad that is also wireless ($30/£30/AU$30 at checkout). However, key travel on Apple’s keyboards is generally low, which you may find uncomfortable enough to warrant getting a third-party alternative.

Apple iMac (2019)

Picture this

If 8GB of RAM by default on the 27-inch iMac 2019 seems stingy, look at rivals’ specs in full to see where else they might have compromised. With the Inspiron 7000, you only have to look as far as the display.

Though also 27 inches diagonally, it only has a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) panel. That’s slightly lower resolution than even the 21.5-inch iMac’s truly 4K, 4,096 x 2,304 screen. That means bigger pixels and a less-sharp image than the iMac 2019 delivers.

There’s nothing to worry about with the entry-level, 27-inch iMac 2019’s display like there is on the iMac 21.5-inch models, where Apple still uses a plain HD panel on the cheapest model. Every 27-inch iMac 2019 display supports a wide (P3) color gamut.

Whichever 27-inch configuration you buy, you get a brilliant screen that delivers beautifully when highlighting extra details in photo editing – provided you have a similarly capable camera.

Even if tasks like photo editing aren’t a factor, you’ll benefit from macOS Mojave looking super-sharp on displays with a high pixel density. It has done so for years, so throughout the operating system, Apple’s apps and many third-party offerings, the iMac 2019’s display is a pleasure to look at.

First reviewed April 2019

  • Images Credit: TechRadar

Last year, we were impressed by the advances Apple brought to the Mac mini, which surpassed performance seen in at least some 2017 iMacs.

Now, the iMac has been updated with the eight-core Intel Core i9 option, which isn’t available on the Mac mini. A high-end iMac 2019 is an appealing proposition if you’re tackling tasks that make heavy use of CPU power.

The eight-core i9 achieves a single-core Geekbench score that’s 9% higher than we got from the Mac mini’s six-core i7. However, it’s the i9’s multi-core performance that truly shines, with a hugely impressive 35% higher Geekbench score.

Here’s how the Apple iMac (27-inch, 2019) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench R15 CPU: (single-core) 205.3 points, (multi-core) 1,736.4 points; Graphics: 167.7 fps
Cinebench R20 CPU: (single-core) 503.4 points, (multi-core) 4,257.2 points
Geekbench 4: 6,383 (single-core); 33,660  (multi-core)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (High preset, 1,920 x 1080): 77 fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (High preset, 4,096 x 2,304): 34 fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider (High preset, 5,120 x 2,880): 23 fps
Blackmagic Disk Speed Test: (read) 2.5 GB/sec, (write) 1.9GB/sec

Last year, we started using HandBrake to test the capability of Mac CPUs by transcoding a 57-minute, 1080p video to the demanding HEVC format. We use the app’s “Apple 1080p30 Surround” preset, but switch the video encoder to ‘H.265 (x265)’.

The Core i9 aced this test as well, blazing through the conversion in a faster-than-real-time 43 minutes and 56 seconds. Compare that to the 2.7GHz quad-core i7 in last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro (1 hour and 32 minutes) or the 2.7GHz quad-core i7 in 2016’s 15-inch MacBook Pro (1 hour and 33 minutes) and the benefit of shelling out a few extra hundred on the i9 is

clear.

Churning through huge amounts of data doesn’t always depend on CPU capability. Some software requires a powerful GPU instead.

To test the capability of the optional Vega 48 GPU, we encoded our 2.5-minute, effects-laden DaVinci Resolve project to a 720p, H.264-format video file. The iMac finished this test in 9 minutes and 19 seconds.

That’s actually more than a minute faster than when we connected our Thunderbolt 3 eGPU, which contains an AMD Radeon Vega 64 card. When connected to the same iMac, the eGPU took 10 minutes and 42 seconds to finish the task.

Even so, gaming at 5K or even 4K resolutions isn’t advisable even with a better GPU like the Vega 48. In the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, with all effects turned up to maximum, the mean average frame rate at those resolutions was just 19 and 27 frames per second (fps), respectively. Switching to the game’s ‘High’ quality preset brought frame rates up to 23 and 33 fps, the latter (4K) approaching playable levels.

Really, with iMac 2019 gaming you’ll get much better performance by lowering resolution instead of effects quality. At 1,920 x 1,080, the mean average rose to a very comfortable 77 fps, though this particular game’s toughest scenes still see dips as low as the high teens.

Thanks for the (not much) memory

Even in 2019, all three 27-inch iMacs 2019 come with 8GB of RAM to start. That’s sufficient for light use, but 16GB would be wise for creative work, or just to avoid macOS paging things out to disk when you have a lot of apps and documents open.

The top-of-the-range Inspiron 27 7000 includes 16GB of DDR4 memory. Its clock speed even matches the iMac 2019’s, which Apple has upped to 2,666MHz in 2019 models.

Our review iMac 2019 came with 16GB, fitted as two 8GB modules, just like in the Inspiron 7000. That leaves you with two memory slots available to expand the iMac further. Unlike on the 21.5-inch iMac, here the memory is user-upgradeable via the back panel.

Apple iMac (2019)

There are significant savings to be had by upgrading the memory yourself. Apple wants $200/£180/AU$320 to fit 16GB on your behalf, but it’s only around $118/£120/AU$260 to buy two 8GB modules. Self-installation makes even more sense if you need a larger amount of space, because Apple’s prices quickly shoot up: it’s $600/£540/AU$960 just for 32GB. You can get that amount for $228.99 (about £176/AU$321) from places like Mac specialist Other World Computing.

We strongly advise shopping around for memory. Just ensure you follow the usual precautions for handling electronics when installing it.

In doing so, you’re making the exact same compromise on capacity in favor of speed as when dispensing with the 1TB Fusion Drive. However, in this case, you get a more comfortable capacity that might delay how soon you’ll need to offload files to external storage.

A fistful of gigabytes

Even in 2019, the iMac hasn’t switched to using purely SSD storage as standard. You have to pay more to get that. Instead, Apple has stuck with its Fusion Drive tech as the default, which combines a small SSD and a large hard disk in a way that presents them to you as a single drive.

Behind the scenes, macOS works out what data you use most often – at the block level, not simply whole files – and keeps as much as possible on the SSD. It moves less important data to the hard disk without you having to think about where things are at.

Contrast that with the Inspiron 7000’s combination of a 256GB PCIe-based SSD and a 1TB hard disk. The former holds Windows 10 and your apps, the latter your personal files. For a little more than the 27-inch iMac’s starting price, HP’s Envy 27-b206na’s goes a bit better. 

Like Dell’s PC, it has a 256GB SSD, but that’s backed by a 2TB hard disk, kicking the likelihood you’ll need an external archive further into the long grass. But, as we said earlier, look closely for other compromises. The Envy has the same amount of RAM as the iMac to start.

While the Fusion Drive is convenient, it increasingly looks like sticking plaster on Apple’s part. Back in 2012, Apple used a 128GB SSD in Fusion Drives. Since 2015, it has reduced that to just 24GB in 1TB models. It doesn’t take long before macOS has to shuffle data back and forth.

Not all PCIe-based NVMe SSDs are equivalent; some have slower transfer rates. And, Microsoft’s high-end rival, the Surface Studio 2, is well over three grand, doubtless not helped by offering a 1TB SSD as the minimum capacity.

But, this is one area where we’d be happy for Apple to make a slight compromise, so that no iMac buyer has to encounter the near-inevitable drawback that a Fusion Drive will, at some point, have to spin up its hard disk component.

It costs $100/£90/AU$160 to swap the 1TB Fusion Drive (included in the bottom and middle 27-inch iMacs) for a fast SSD. That gets you 256GB of storage, which isn’t too bad a deal, but it’s painful to step up to 512GB or 1TB. The former alone will take another $300/£270/AU$480 out of your bank account.

It’s only if you start with the top 27-inch iMac that upgrading to a 512GB SSD becomes palatable. That model has a 2TB Fusion Drive to start with, so replacing that with a half-tenable SSD costs the same here as a 256GB drive does on the less expensive 27-inch iMacs.

Apple iMac (2019)

In doing that, you’re still making the exact same compromise on capacity in favor of speed as when dispensing with the 1TB Fusion Drive. But, in this case, you get a more comfortable capacity that might delay how soon you’ll need to offload files to external storage.

Watch those files fly

To test storage transfer rates, we used BlackMagic Disk Speed Test and QuickBench. The former alternates between writing and reading a 5GB file. 

Thunderbolt 3-connected SSDs we’ve tested recently throttle their performance to deal with the build-up of heat under prolonged activity. We saw nothing like that impact on the iMac’s SSD.

The iMac’s SSD maintained read and write speeds of 2.5 and 1.9GB/sec, respectively, even after looping the test for 15 minutes. The iMac’s much larger, actively cooled body likely helps with that. Want to see how a Fusion Drive holds up? Check out our imminent 21.5in iMac review. (Spoiler: the hard disk part is a real performance bottleneck.)

QuickBench revealed that the SSD is actually capable of higher transfer rates – up to 3.18GB/sec when reading data – but it’s better to take the Blackmagic figures as an indication of sustained performance.

Final verdict

Among the components in our customized review unit, memory stands out as something that can wait until you know you need more. If you already know that you will, it’s clear why you should still avoid paying Apple’s memory prices.

Put any saving you make towards upgrading the iMac’s storage. That’s one thing all iMac buyers should immediately upgrade. Having a hard drive component in an iMac, even as part of a Fusion Drive, is the biggest weak spot. Make the internal drive the fastest available, in the biggest capacity your budget allows to avoid the performance issues we see in the Fusion Drive.

If you don’t need blisteringly fast graphics performance from day one, macOS’s relatively recent support for eGPUs means you could put off that decision until later. You can’t do the same for an iMac’s CPU. That said, the one eGPU we had available performed slightly worse in one app than Apple’s Vega 48 upgrade.

Likewise, if your workload is heavy – whether from multiple apps competing for the processor, or one app taking all the processing capacity made available to it – you should seriously consider the Core i9 upgrade. You’ll see from our imminent 21.5-inch iMac review that it pays off handsomely with demanding software.

Upgrading to a Core i9 and a 256GB SSD takes the price of the mid-range 27-inch iMac to $2,599/£2,489/AU$4,029. If you have to make a hard choice between them, or simply don’t need extreme CPU or GPU power, the one upgrade you should go for is an SSD to avoid frustration caused by the impact of Apple’s decision to pair tiny SSDs with slow hard disks.

Ultimately, the 2019 iMac is a fine upgrade to the 2017 model, especially for prosumers and creative professionals, and one of the best premium all-in-one PCs that money can buy. Just look out for those steep memory and storage prices, and consider an alternative mouse.

Asus RT-AX58U

Two-minute review

Give your network that Wi-Fi 6 boost with the Asus RT-AX58U. It offers that Wi-Fi 6 upgrade at a very competitive price to folks looking to cover medium-sized homes and office spaces.

Widely available online for around £164.99/$179.99/AU$429, the Asus RT-AX58U picks up where high-end routers like the Asus ZenWifi AX mesh systems would be overkill. This dual-band router not only supports Wi-Fi 6, but does so on the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands, with a top speed of 3000Mbps.

Bear in mind that you won’t get the full benefit of Wi-Fi speed and reliability unless your computers and mobile devices also support Wi-Fi as well. However, Wi-Fi 6 is still compatible with devices that use 802.11ac wi-fi, so you don’t have to worry about replacing older devices when you buy a Wi-Fi router

Also watch out for Asus’ model numbers, though, as they can be a bit confusing, and there’s a very similar model called the RT-AX56U, which is about £40/$50/AU$70 cheaper, but only runs at 1800Mbps. That’s still a good speed, and perfectly adequate for streaming video and web browsing on just a handful of devices. However, homes that have lots of computers and mobile devices all connected to Wi-Fi at the same time will benefit from the stronger performance of the RT-AX58U.

You’ll see a lot of Prime Day deals on routers, and this year, we expect some of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers to join the fray. We’re keeping our eyes open for such deals from now until June 22. Make sure to check in regularly so we can keep you apprised of those.

Design and features

Asus RT-AX58U

(Image credit: Future)
Specifications:

Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), dual-band 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz
Processor: Broadcom BCM43684 
 @1.5GHz
Memory: 512MB
Storage: 256MB Flash
Beamforming: Implicit  and Explicit for 2.4GHz and 5GHz
Ports: 1x Gigabit WAN, 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 3.1
Dimensions (HxWxD): 160 x 224 x 154 mm

Asus’ designers have done a good job squeezing Wi-Fi 6 performance and features into this compact little router. The four black antennae poking up from the back look like they mean business, and the angle of each antenna can be adjusted to make sure you get good all-round coverage with your wi-fi signal.

Even so, the router measures just 224mm wide, and its low-profile design means that it will sit neatly on any convenient shelf.

Asus RT-AX58U

(Image credit: Future)

Just remember that the RT-AX58U doesn’t include a modem, so you’ll need to connect it to your existing broadband modem or router in order to connect to the Internet.

There’s a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet port for that Internet connection, along with four additional Ethernet ports for devices that need a wired connection, and a USB 3.1 port for sharing USB storage devices on your home network.

Setup and performance

Benchmarks:

Ookla Speed Test - 2.4GHz
Within 5ft, no obstructions:
59.0/5.8Mbps (download/upload)
Within 30ft, three partition walls: 58.0/5.8Mbps (download/upload)

Ookla Speed Test - 5.0GHz
Within 5ft, no obstructions: 59.6/6.0Mbps (download/upload)
Within 30ft, three partition walls: 58.0/5.8Mbps (download/upload)

20GB Steam download - 2.4GHz
Within 5ft, no obstructions: 7.4MB/s
Within 30ft, three partition walls: 7.3MB/s

Getting started is very straightforward, and Asus manages to cater for both complete beginners and more advanced users. The manual provided with the RT-AX58U shows how to plug everything in, and explains the two options that are available.

Asus RT-AX58U

(Image credit: Asus)

If you’re familiar with networking technology then you can use an Ethernet cable to connect the router directly to a Mac or PC and configure the network settings for yourself via a web browser interface. 

However, most people will probably prefer to use the Asus Router app for iOS and Android devices instead. This gets off to a good start by giving you the option of creating a single network that combines the 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands, or setting up two separate networks that have different passwords. 

Asus RT-AX58U

(Image credit: Asus)

The app includes plenty of other useful features too, including the ability to create a temporary guest network, and use QoS - quality of service - to prioritise certain types of online services, such as streaming video or gaming, that really need top performance. 

Asus also has an edge on some of its router rivals by providing good parental controls, including the ability to create schedules for Internet use, and filters for blocking adult content and other unsuitable material.

And, of course, the Wi-Fi 6 technology of the RT-AX58U provides impressive performance for your home wi-fi network. When used in the same room as our existing 802.11ac router, the RT-AX58U managed to squeeze a little extra speed out of our Internet connection, increasing Wi-Fi speeds from 55Mbps to 59Mbps. 

However, the real test in our building is the back office - where our Wi-Fi signal is so unreliable that we normally rely on a wired Ethernet connection for our office computers. The RT-AX58U took things in its stride, though, continuing to deliver a steady and reliable speed of 58Mbps even in that office. Download speeds from Steam held up as well, staying strong at just over 7MB/s in all locations in our building.

Buy it if…

You need faster Wi-Fi
The 3000Mbps performance of the RT-AX58U means that it has speed to spare - it’s way faster than most home broadband services, and will be ideal for gaming, streaming video and music.

You’ve got a lot of gadgets
New Wi-Fi 6 routers are fast, but their real strength lies in the ability to stream data to lots of devices all at the same time. If you’ve got a house full of computers, tablets and smartphones, then the RT-AX58U will deliver fast wi-fi to all your devices.

You want good parental control
Some routers overlook the importance of parental controls to protect young children online - or, worse, require an additional subscription for these features. But the Asus Router app provides a good set of parental control features free of charge.

Don’t buy it if…

You just want to watch Netflix
You don’t need Wi-Fi 6 performance to watch Netflix, or other streaming services. If you just need to give your old router a bit of a boost then current-generation 802.11ac routers can do the trick.

You’re on a budget
Wi-Fi 6 routers are seriously fast, but they’re probably overkill for many homes. You can get a perfectly good 802.11ac router that is almost as fast for a little over £100.

You live in a mega-mansion
The RT-AX58U is very fast for a conventional single router, but it’s not designed for really large homes. If you need wi-fi that has better range as well as speed then a mesh networking system with two or three routers will be a better option.

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